Aspen Anderson

Aspen Anderson

EASC Graduate Student

Graduated 2023 -  Ph.D.

Thesis Project:  Freshwater Resources Risk Assessment in Coastal Deltas

Supervisor: Dr. Diana Allen

What got you interested in Earth Sciences?
I grew up in a family that generally spent a lot of time outdoors and I became more interested in science and technology in general as I got older, so using science to study the outdoors was a pretty natural fit for me.

Why did you choose SFU EASC?
I chose to come to SFU to work with Dr. Diana Allen. As a graduate student, it is really important to find an advisor that you can work well with, both in terms of research interest/motivation and personality. Diana has been a phenomenal supervisor and I couldn’t have asked to enter into a better program. The graduate students in the department have become some of my best friends and I am extremely grateful to have such a supportive network of people around me.

What has been your best learning experience?
My background is in engineering, so making the switch from engineering to Earth Sciences opened my eyes to different ways of thought and using new techniques to solve familiar problems.

What is your research?
My research focuses on freshwater availability in coastal deltas. I originally wanted to work on coastal deltas because these landforms undergo complex water and landscape change and are often highly populated. In addition to simply thinking deltas are very cool landforms, I really care about making a difference with my research in terms of ensuring populations have enough freshwater to sustain water demand. This desire began during the few months I spent studying in Cape Town, South Africa as an undergrad. While I was there, the city was going through major water availability issues. You might remember media headlines stating that Cape Town was going to be the first city to run out of fresh water. The water ratioing that was implemented as a result greatly affected life in the city and opened my eyes to how important good water management is to sustaining life. Ultimately, water conservation in Cape Town ensured that the city did not fully run out of water, but this is just one example of what coastal cities might face in the future without long-term water management strategies. I want to help tackle these problems now to ensure they don’t affect people in the future.

What are you passionate about?
Since I have come to BC I have expanded my love for the outdoors (climbing, fishing, camping, trail running, etc.). I think trying my best to balance my time in the office with some time outside surrounded by friends has been really helpful in keeping me motivated in my studies. I’ve met a lot of my current friends through the SFU climbing wall and it has been great being a part of a community of people that enjoy the same things I do while also understanding what it is like to be a graduate student.

What advice would you offer grad students?
Any graduate program is what you make of it. I think the best thing you can do in any new department is be as involved as you can be. There will be a lot of doors open in front of you as a new student; it is important to at least walk through a couple and see what other opportunities lie on the other side. I think it’s generally rare to regret getting involved, but it is common to regret not getting involved.

What are your plans after SFU EASC?
In the long-run, I think I find the most value in teaching. I am also very invested in my research and think it would be great if I can find a position that allows me to do both in some capacity. However, I am open to change and am happy to see what the future holds for me (even if it isn’t what I expected).